For too long, some have seen cycling as a niche activity, rather than a normal activity for all. I believe if we can increase levels of walking and cycling, the benefits are substantial. For people, it means cheaper travel and better health. For businesses, it means increased productivity and increased footfall in shops. And for society it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places and communities.
I am pleased to share that the Government has invested over £850 million in active travel between 2020/21 and 2022/23. Moreover, it has also committed to spending at least a further £100 million capital into active travel over the remainder of the spending period, as part of a £3 billion investment in active travel over the course of this Parliament.
Last year alone, millions of people in England benefitted from improved walking, wheeling, and cycling routes thanks to a £200 million government fund. Walking and cycling charity Sustrans have estimated that active travel generated £36.5 billion for the economy in 2021 through increased spending on high streets, reduced pressure on the NHS and better access to jobs. This investment could also generate up to 16 million additional walking and cycling trips a year.
More locally, I recently welcomed news that West Sussex is set to receive an additional £2,351,250 from the Government’s Active Travel Fund – designed to create safe spaces for cycling and walking: https://www.mimsdavies.org.uk/news/west-sussex-receive-extra-ps2351250-boost-local-cycling-and-walking-infrastructure
I have been closely involved in discussions with my colleagues at WSCC about the West Sussex Walking and Cycling Strategy and am therefore delighted that Mid Sussex, as part of the West Sussex allocation, will benefit from additional funding to make our local area more bike and pedestrian-friendly, while maintaining the access and space other road users still need.
As part of deciding how to use this funding, I would also like to reassure constituents, who were concerned about the now terminated pop-up cycle lane in East Grinstead, of my continued endeavours to ensure this grant is used in a way that serves local residents best.
The money will be provided to West Sussex County Council and could be used to fund measures such as School Streets, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and segregated cycle lanes. In total, £175 million is being allocated to local authorities across England in the latest round of allocations from the fund.
Following discussions with local MPs, the Government has stipulated that councils receiving money will have to meet tough new conditions to ensure that schemes are properly thought out and that their impact on other road users are closely weighed up. Councils will also have longer to spend the money, ensuring there is time to consult local communities. If these conditions are not met, future funding allocations will be reduced and the Government could clawback some of the money already provided.
The Conservative Government has pledged a revolution in walking and cycling as part of its plans to level up the whole county, with the Prime Minister pledging a record £2 billion investment to double cycling and increase walking by 2025. This comes on top of more than £27 billion that will be invested in England’s roads over the next five years, ensuring the road network is safe, reliable and efficient.
Ultimately, active travel is convenient, cheap, low carbon and health-giving. It's a choice we need to make sure everyone has and I remain committed to its promotion in government. Sometimes it only takes relatively small changes, such as crossings on school routes or convenient places to park a bike, to give us the option to walk, wheel or ride.